If you’re a naval-oriented collector, perhaps you own a battleship model, be it a plastic Revell or a handcrafted beauty worth hundreds of dollars. Perhaps you own a whole shelf of them, for that matter, and more power to you. But no matter how avid you are, you cannot own an actual battleship (unless you also own deep slip space and a bottomless well of maintenance-and-upkeep financing). And while it’s not feasible to possess such a gargantuan artifact, you can possess a fragment of her—and with it, a fragment of her history.
This block of wood—approximately 2 inches long by 1.5 inches wide and 7/8 of an inch deep—is just such a piece of the past: a remnant of the original deck of the storied battleship USS Oregon (BB-3). The block currently is in the collection of historian and 2019 Naval History Author of the Year Barrett Tillman. He hails from a long line of Oregonians, and the relic belonged to his late mother. She “had the block in her bric-a-brac for as long as I can remember,” he says, and he believes it may have come into her possession during the time she worked at an Oregon shipyard in World War II.